Mexico's northernmost port on the Pacific Coast mingles desert landscapes and golden beaches around broad Todos Santos (All Saints) Bay. The so-called "Cinderella of the Pacific" is also a thriving arts center and a boisterous spring break hangout for California college kids.
What We Love
Guadalupe Valley: Half an hour inland from downtown Ensenada, the valley has emerged as Mexico's leading wine-producing region over the past decade. Several of the three-dozen vineyards possess upscale restaurants that blend gourmet Mexican cuisine and great local wines.
Centro Social, Cívico y Cultural: The old Hotel Riviera del Pacífico — a 1930s retreat for the Hollywood elite and the place where the margarita was born — has morphed into a vibrant cultural center that stages concerts, art exhibits, and other events. But the real treats are the Spanish colonial architecture and lush gardens.
Best Known For
Calle Primera: Running parallel to the waterfront, "First Street" is the fulcrum of Ensenada eating and nightlife, including the legendary Hussong's Cantina and El Rey Sol Restaurant, a local favorite since 1947.
La Bufadora: The celebrated "Buffalo Snort" blowhole sends water shooting 70 feet into the air. According to local legend, the spray comes from a gray whale that was trapped beneath the rocks many moons ago.
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Who It's Best For
Oenophiles: Connoisseurs of global wine will want to taste the many excellent reds and whites coming out of the Guadalupe Valley these days.
Aqua Addicts: Surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, and deep-sea fishing count among the activities available along the northern Baja California coast.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
There Aren't a Lot of Photos Ops: Ensenada is not an especially photogenic city. Don't expect the sweeping panoramas of Acapulco or the dramatic geology of Los Cabos.
It's a Tourist Trap: Ensenada has made great strides in transforming itself from a seedy "border town" into a more upscale destination, but parts of the past linger downtown.
Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.